Grant Wright drawings exhibit opens March 20

See 1920s and 1930s Weehawken through an artist’s eyes

The Weehawken Historical Commission exhibit of the sketchbook art of Grant Wright, titled “A Walk through Weehawken with Grant Wright – Drawings from the 1930s,” will open on March 20 at the headquarters of the Weehawken Historical Commission, 309 Park Ave., third floor.
Opening hours are 12-4 p.m. The exhibit will be open on Sundays once a month thereafter; dates and times to be announced.
Grant Wright was a well-known landscape painter and illustrator, born in Decatur, Mich. in 1865. Raised in the Midwest, he moved to New York in 1895 and trained at the National Academy of Design.
While a student there, he became one of the founding members of the Country Sketch Club, a group of artists who spearheaded the American Impressionist movement. He was also a founder of the Bronx Artist Guild.
After graduating, he opened a studio on top of the New York Tribune Building, where he became a successful freelance commercial artist, illustrator, caricaturist and landscape painter.
Wright became familiar with Weehawken in the mid-1920s and began sketching bits and pieces of the town. In 1931, he was severely injured in an automobile accident, breaking both legs, which necessitated his retirement from commercial art work. He moved in with his older brother Charles and his family, who lived on lower Park Avenue.

Lifelong friends

During that time he became fast friends with Weehawken Police Lieutenant Edward J. Kirk, despite their almost 30-year age difference. Kirk went on to become chief of police and official historian for over 30 years and Wright became known as Weehawken’s unofficial township artist, a familiar presence to residents, where he could often be seen around town, sketchbook in hand.
Together they began to investigate and explore Weehawken’s past and collaborated on an illustrated history of the township.
They also documented the dramatic changes that were reshaping the township into a vehicular transportation hub with the construction of the Lincoln Tunnel.
Within the pages of his nine Weehawken sketchbooks, Wright showed, through his art and commentary, how things looked and felt in the late 1920s and early 1930s and how much the town he loved was transforming before his eyes.
He suffered another leg injury after a fall in 1932, but after recovering he continued his daily sketching jaunts through town. It was after one of these sketching sessions in cold weather that he developed pneumonia, which quickly led to his death in October of 1935, at the age of 70.
In the course of only several years in Weehawken, Grant Wright created hundreds of drawings and sketches, filled with beauty, history, humor and his Midwesterner’s gentle sense of optimism.
For the exhibit, the commission has selected images from the neighborhoods where he most often worked: the Shades, Park Avenue, Hackensack Plank Road, the valley and the waterfront.
Mixed in are a few portraits of his friends, along with some corresponding period photographs and two large panoramic drawings of the waterfront that are impressive in their detail and in demonstrating the technical skills of this fine artist.
The exhibit is free.

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